jueves, 3 de enero de 2019

" The Labyrinth of Columns " By Antonio Jesús González : A Fascinating Book on Old Pictures of Cordoba Mosque


" The Labyrinth of Columns. Pictures and Photographers in the Cordoba Mosque Cathedral. 1844-1875 " book by Antonio Jesús González is a highly interesting work stemming from five years of investigation in which his author (a photographer for Diario Córdoba newspaper and a recognized authority in both the History of Cordoban Photography and Old Photography) ha fulfilled a commendable labour of research throughout roughly twelve years within private collections, archives and museums of Europe, United States and Canada, where he has found the oldest existing pictures of the Córdoba Mosque Cathedral.

Therefore, the book is a masterful visual diachronic travel across those images, made between 1857 and 1881, studying the different photographers who depicted this architectural jewel (being one of the most importants touristic hubs in Europe) through daguerrotypes, calotypes, stereoscopies, wet plates, dry plates, etc.

A time in which making photographs was something at the reach of a reduced number of artists and researchers.

The author shows and explains the images made by the main photographers of XIX Century who arrived from France, United Kingdom and different Spanish cities to immortalize The Labyrinth of Columns, symbol of the great temple belonging to the splendour period of Cordoba Caliphate, approximately 1,200 years ago, when the city was the most important metropolis in Europe, a crucible of cultures and the first city in the world featuring integral lighting of its streets.

It is a fabulous and comprehensive assortment of pictures making up exceedingly valuable historical documents, since they enable us to behold the appearance of Córdoba Mosque 150 years ago.
In addition, though they are pretty old photographs, their image quality is often impressive, because of two main key factors :

a) During XIX Century both the wet glass plates and the dry plates mostly boasted large format, with sizes between around 20 x 25 cm and 50 x 70 cm, so they had a much larger surface than the 24 x 36 mm format, which after its launching into photographic market in mid twenties, would turn into the most used one by photographers all over the world from fifties.

b) The very special image aesthetics obtained by techniques like the large format glass plates with wet collodion, delivering exceptional qualitative levels in the pictures.

Some of the images are stunning, as happens with the photographs of the temple arcades, painted in white and lacking their characteristic red and ocre colours, or the sights of the whole wood of columns lit by the Baroque vaults.

They are unique pictures and most of them hadn´t ever been publicly shown, making possible to visualize the urban interaction between the world famous monument and the city in this period, both in the panoramic views taken from the Guadalquivir river or from the tower in the street photographs made at ground level.

Besides, this visual legacy standing out with its unutterable beauty and historical significance, is also very relevant from a photographic viewpoint, because these images were very difficult to make as a consequence of the very scarce light inside the building during second half of XIX Century, and the photographic techniques were then rather limited, as well as needing long exposure times on sturdy wooden tripods.

Among the authors of the pictures appearing in the book are foremost European photographers of XIX Century, like the British Charles Clifford and Edward King Tenison (who in 1852 made the oldest photograph displayed in it), the French Jean Laurent and Luis Masson or the Spanish García Córdoba and Casiano Alguacil.

Furthermore, it should be added the meaningful fact that Antonio Jesús González has been striving upon finding the first picture ever taken in the Córdoba Mosque (which was a daguerrotype made in 1844 by a Cordoban photographer) for nineteen years.

And of course, the book cover featuring the photograph made by Luis León Masson in 1859, with the whitewashed archwork of the Córdoba Mosque is truly stunning.

Antonio Jesús González interviewed by Cadena Ser Radio Corporation on December 11, 2018, showing his book " The Labyrinth of Columns. Pictures and Photographers in the Córdoba Mosque Cathedral (1844-1875) " , a really lavish edition in large format, highly painstakingly and professionally made by Luque Printing House, with a praiseworthy quality of design and reproduction of images. © Cadena Ser

Once more, the labour implemented by Antonio Jesús González has been fundamental to rescue from oblivion this invaluable heritage of images and spread its knowledge to general public.

To lay the groundwork for a book like this, encompassing nothing less than 212 pages, edited by the Cabildo of Córdoba Cathedral and manufactured with an uncompromising quality by Luque Printing House with handcrafted parameters, thorough care, an amazing quality of reproduction of the very abundant images and an excellent grammage of paper, is fruit of many years of strenuous effort by the author to go ahead with this fascinating project, something he has accustomed us to with his deep knowldege, experience and good taste that enabled him to previously spawn other editorial landmarks related to the city he loves with all of his being, among which have highlighted hitherto : " Córdoba Between Two Lights ", " Corredera, A Square and its Peoples ", Parties to observe. The villages of Córdoba through its Popular Festivities ", " Córdoba 20th Century ", " News, Press and Photojournalism in Córdoba ", etc.

And if it all weren´t enough, in 2017 he discovered along with Ana Verdú (Director of the Córdoba Archive) approximately 450 large format glass plates of late XIX Century exposed by the photographer from Granada Rafael Garzón, with pictures taken in Córdoba, Málaga, Seville, Cádiz, Toledo and Tánger, portraying the Spain of 120 years ago and the tourists of the epoch.

With those images was made the milestone " The Garzón Photographers. Caliphs of Cordoban Photography ", which was feasible thanks to Antonio Jesús González´s prowess and expertise as a restaurator, because the glass plates appeared under a lot of debris in an old photographic laboratory with tons of humidity, so they had major chemical damage and contamination, dirtiness and fingerprints, hardening and fracture of acetates, rust and scratches, etc, so they had to be cleaned, stabilized and digitized.

But this " The Labyrinth of Columns. Pictures and Photographers in the Córdoba Mosque Cathedral. 1844-1875 " is perhaps the pinnacle of so many decades of investigation on the History of Photography in Córdoba by his author, a professional photographer unswervingly loving his trade and a recognized expert in old photography and its conservation.

In addition, 2019 will be the 175th Anniversary of Photography in Córdoba, because its first known image was the daguerrotype of the Córdoba Mosque Cathedral made by J. Albors in 1844.
Antonio Jesús González has been a photographer and archive head of Diario Córdoba newspaper since 1986.

From 1991 to 1994 he was a stringer photographer for EFE Agency in Córdoba, with which he has published pictures in the most prominent Spanish daily press : El País, El Mundo, Diario 16, ABC, La Vanguardia, El Sol, Ya, El Periódico de Catalunya, Sport, Tiempo, Interviú and others.

It was one of the founding members of the Cordoban Photographic Association AFOCO and has been bestowed the City of Córdoba Photojournalism Award in 2001 and the Honour Mention of the Andalusian Photojournalism Prize in 2009.

The book is on sale at Librería Luque of Córdoba, with a very competitive price of 26 euros.

José Manuel Serrano Esparza